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Charity Cycling: Part 1, London to Paris with a difference

Rachel (centre) with her friends, ready to take on London to Paris for The Cure Parkinson’s Trust.

Rachel Gibson is cycling from London to Paris this summer for Parkinson’s Disease. So what? Thousands of women do these events every year. What’s the catch? Rachel is battling the very disease she is raising money for.

Rachel’s story: Cycling with Parkinson’s Disease

I live in Buckinghamshire, with my cycling mad husband, his five bikes and our three daughters. Family life for us is much like that of many families. We seem to always be busy with our jobs, school runs, homework, housework and being the children’s constant taxi service. On the odd night ‘off’, we occasionally treat ourselves to a take away or session at the gym.

Life was a comfortable routine, until I received some life-changing news.

Five years ago, I began experiencing strange uncontrollable movements in my right leg while running. Doing the sensible thing, I raised it with my GP, who then referred me to a neurologist.

Thinking it was a routine assessment; I didn’t think to ask my husband to come with me to the neurology appointment. However, as I was so symptomatic, the moment the neurologist saw me walk into the room, he knew I had classic Parkinson’s Disease. I was only 38-years-old; surely people didn’t get Parkinson’s Disease at such an early age?

Charity, cycling and cake. What a combination!

Now, almost five years on, I have become increasingly involved with The Cure Parkinson’s Trust, a charity that aims to raise awareness and find a cure for Parkinson’s Disease.  One of the hardest jobs the charity has, is dispelling the myth that Parkinson’s is an old person’s disease. This isn’t the case; it can affect anyone at anytime, with the youngest sufferer diagnosed at just 9-years-old.

Where does the cycling fit in?

On the 8th May 2013, two of my friends are joining me to cycle 300 miles from London to Paris over four days. Raising money and awareness of early onset Parkinson’s and The Cure Parkinson’s Trust as we go.

One of the reasons we chose cycling is that we have found it easy to fit into our daily lives. We frequently meet up at the school gates, watch our children go in and then start our cycle from school. It helps that our husbands are mad about road cycling and have been really encouraging about getting out to train, spurring us on with the occasional kit purchase.

We are pleased with the benefits cycling has given us. It’s kick-started the diet and helped us lose almost a stone each. We are enjoying the fresh air and feel motivated and driven. It has increased our self-esteem and provided some much needed ‘me’ time.

Nothing can stop Rachel and her friends. Even the cold weather didn’t hold them back from training this Winter.

Although I’m generally well controlled on a variety of drugs, an old Achilles tendon injury creates issues when my Parkinson’s does decide to play up.  Becoming increasingly stiff and rigid, it makes turning the pedals a struggle. Out on the bike I have to take the time to stretch my ankles out, so I’ve not yet made the transition to clipless pedals. If there is anyone who can help with some advice, please let me know. There’s evidence out there that forced cycling can help improve the symptoms of Parkinson’s and I certainly think my body co-ordination has improved.

There are just over 8 weeks until we set off from London and we still have many miles to get in the legs before then. We are following a training plan and over the next few weeks our rides will need to be much longer and more frequent. We are looking forward to the longer, warmer days of spring although we have managed to ride even when the weather is not on our side. It’s a great feeling when you complete a ride in the snow. The snow-topped woods were stunning and appreciated so much more from a bike.

We have had our trials: mechanical incidents and freezing numb toes are to name but a few. However, we are delighted with our achievements so far and we are looking forward to sharing our tales with you all. Hopefully our story can inspire some of you to get back on your bikes. If we can do it, I promise anyone can.

Rachel has set up a fundraising blog to detail her ride and fundraising, please take some time to have a read.

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